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Vis à Vis versus Almere (2): civil service finds building land too expensive for culture

A fortnight ago we reported That the unique open-air theatre group Vis à Vis has a petition had started. Reason: the Almere city council was reportedly planning to convert the company's permanent site at Almere beach into a residential area. This would go against an earlier promise made by the alderman. Since that alderman is now no longer an alderman, a new zoning plan would have removed the promised permanence. As the municipality denied such when questioned, we reported it. Vis à Vis didn't like that, but we had no choice.

More is now known. In a lengthy article on the website 'Almere this week' tells the company's leadership that they have twice been told - informally - by officials that they will have to move from their place by 2025. Politics, meanwhile, remains vague, giving little peace of mind. It would all be about a land write-off, which would be needed to make Vis à Vis's freshly built accommodation permanent.


To explain it in plain language: land zoned 'housing' is worth much more than land zoned 'event location'. If you, as a tenant, pay a ground rent for housing land, it is much more than if the land is 'event', say a factor of 10. Now, this is mainly an arithmetical issue, because Vis a Vis finances this ground rent from subsidy that the municipality in turn provides. If the ground rent is higher, the subsidy also has to go up again. In this way, the 'Culture' departments of a lot of municipalities finance the 'Property' departments of those same municipalities.

"Officials in 2015 did not want us to get a longer ground lease because the land had to be depreciated. They said the city council would not accept this," Wierbos told Almere Deze Week. "Mayor Annemarie Jorritsma then instructed the officials and aldermen to arrange everything properly for Vis à Vis. A 15-year long lease was drawn up. Eventually, the municipality reduced those 15 years to 10 years ( 2015 - 2025), because the 10 years were easier to explain to the council, with the mere aim of not confronting the council with land depreciation. This was not for the purpose of labelling the Vis à Vis site as temporary. After all, the agreement that we could stay there was already there by the former college.'

Land revenue

And finally, much ado later, the civil service in Almere still does not seem to feel like giving the prime location to a theatre club. Art is not such a thing in Almere anyway, and land revenue is worth something in an area that we have just painstakingly withdrawn from the sea. Besides, any civil servant wonders: how long does such a theatre club actually exist on average, and are we then stuck with worthless land at a prime location forever?

And so Vis a Vis is right to worry, especially since Almere does not have a very trustworthy image when it comes to dealing with art buildings on fallow land. After all, Almere once had a leading museum called De Paviljoens, which was also sacrificed to the land hunger of property developers as construction climbed out of the crisis.

The petition can still signed be. During May, the municipal council will decide on the zoning plan.

Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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